New pay-what-you-can-afford food truck model serves up nutritious and tasty meals in Park City
The idea to create a local community Center that includes a cafe and food truck sprouted out of a promise Amber Raleigh made when she found herself food insecure during the 2008 recession.
“I didn’t look like your typical food-insecure person, and I made a vow that I would do something someday that would not allow people to feel so vulnerable and helpless,” said Raleigh, co-founder and CEO of the Grow Community Center, Cafe and Food Truck, which recently opened in Park City.
So in 2016, she and her partner and chief operating officer Edj Fish, came up with the Grow Community Center and Cafe concept in Colorado. Their goal was to create the opportunity for people who are facing challenges to be part of their community.
The cafe itself was modeled after a social-equity pay-what-you-can-afford concept that Panera and Jon Bon Jovi have supported with their restaurants, Raleigh said.
“Everyone can come get a good meal, no matter what you can afford,” she said. “When we all need help it’s nice to go to a place where we can all connect and be together as an organization or individuals.”
Raleigh and Fish decided to establish a cafe in Park City after moving here in 2017, but their plans took a detour when the novel coronavirus shut the town down in March.
“The pandemic actually created an opportunity for us to create a mobile cafe that can serve the community by traveling to and serving different areas,” Raleigh said.
The food truck’s menu isn’t about providing calories. It’s about providing nutrition, which follows former First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act school lunch program, according to Raleigh.
To do this, the Grow Community Cafe Food Truck offers a solely plant-based menu, which is also good for the environment, she said.
“Plant-based foods are starting to become more prevalent in people’s lives, and bring health solutions to the community,” Raleigh said. “Not only are we serving the plant-based community in Park City, but also expand other people’s appetite as well.”
The food truck also exists to help people who have food allergies or chronic conditions like diabetes and autoimmune disease, she said. “The menu will be gluten free, soy free, peanut free and of course dairy free,” Raleigh said.
Fish, who does all of the cooking, said Grow Community Cafe’s idea of a plant-based diet is more than just removing the chicken from a Caesar chicken salad and replacing it with meat substitutes.
“All the food is created to highlight the delicious taste of the vegetables, and how they can be prepared with the spices and sauces we put on them,” he said. “Being foodies, we wanted to make food that satisfied our palates as well as being nutrient dense. We wanted to make food that we’re proud of.”
Fish sources ingredients locally as much as he can, and has partnered with Done To Your Taste Catering, a Kamas-based commissary, owned by Eileen Dunn.
“Eileen is a fantastic partner, and she has offered to share all of her local sources for produce and the other ingredients,” said Fish. “So we are using as many local providers as we can.”
Sourcing local, quality and organic ingredients is important to Raleigh, when it comes to the food truck’s social equity mission.
“The way we see it is if I can have a nutrient-dense healthy meal there is no reason that other people can’t have access to the same,” she said.
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